MOUNT MAGAZINE STATE PARK – Sometimes you get lucky.
And one of those sometimes was last Sunday when an overnight trip to the Lodge at Mount Magazine State Park went from beautiful to majestic.
If you’ve been to Mount Magazine, the state’s highest point at 2,753 feet, you may have seen hang gliders overhead. Circling like birds as you gawk in wonderment.
But Sunday was different. Sunday was the day that the hang glider launch area was locked and loaded with not one but three hang gliders waiting for just the right moment to take off.
So, obviously, that was a stop and turnaround moment and quick, giddy steps to the launch site, that’s not terribly far from the lodge and amongst the cabins that line the south side of the mountain.
“Patience is a virtue,” one said to me and the others in the crowd waiting.
Then the wind picked up. And with that, the hang glider spit into his gloves, wiped them together and with a “clear” it was time to start recording and not much later he was launching himself off the side of the mountain.
Then another did the same. This time, the video below, was shot in slow motion.
Then a third pilot, this one with a hang glider with a 46-foot wingspan that cost, according to his wife, “a small car” was off.
The wives stayed behind. Armed with walkie talkies and phone apps that would allow them to locate their husbands whenever, or wherever, they landed.
In theory, the landing zone was a plot of farm land, roughly two miles south.
In theory. The reality was the hang gliders could land almost anywhere. One, in fact, had to be fetched from Missouri as he caught a thermal and was off hundreds of miles to the north. Or, at least, that’s what the wife said of a previous launch.
Hang gliding, it isn’t for me.
But to watch it in action, well that’s something I can do and was lucky enough to see it.
As the Arkansas State Park system celebrates its 100 birthday this year, ArkansasNewsroom.com is going to be taking at some of the more notable, and less notable, state parks across the state.
First up in this occasional series is Mount Magazine. An old and new park for Arkansas.
As is the case for parks across the state, Mount Magazine started its life as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The CCC, still going, was primarily a Depression-era public works program and the camp along with its buildings were there for road projects and other improvements in Logan County.
Mount Magazine was put into the Ouachita National Forest by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as the Encyclopedia of Arkansas explained here and the lodge remained in use until it was destroyed in a fire in 1974.
The site was better known as a rappelling site for first responders in training and Cove Lake, a recreation area just south of Paris, was far more popular with locals.
Still, though, Mount Magazine was a draw for butterfly enthusiasts and hikers who wanted to summit at 2,753 feet. Which is roughly half of Denver’s altitude but still noticeable.
The views at the top are also incredible with Ozark to the north and Oklahoma to the west, both visible on a clear day.
That all changed at the start of the 21st century when the park was developed by the state and formally became a state park in 2002 by then Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Now, the lodge is expansive with an indoor pool, wading pool and hot tub. An arcade style game room and 60 rooms that are more like an upscale hotel.
There’s million dollar views from the lodge but it comes with a price tag as queen rooms start at $179 and suites will set you back $255 a night. For Friday night check-ins, most stays require two nights. So double that.
Cabins are even more as average nightly rates are between $363 to $484 depending on how many beds are needed.
That’s on the high end but it doesn’t seem to deter the flood of Texans who treat the Arkansas State Park system as their big backyard.
As for the suite we stayed in, it was showing its age as the furniture, particularly the pull-out couch, had some significant wear. The room’s heating and air unit can also not be turned off.
So despite two patio screened patio doors, one couldn’t enjoy an old-style sleeping room cooled by the night air that generally runs about 10 degrees cooler than typical.
Pack earplugs. The heat and air vent sounded like a plane taking off. The food in the Skycrest Restaurant was good! Sunday night dinner was a buffet and you can also order off a fairly expansive menu. Breakfast is dine-in but you can also get carryout. It was also very good. There’s an in-room Keurig if you want a cup of coffee with your sunrise along with free WiFi when you post to the ‘Gram.
Just a note, the pool is going to be closed for repairs for the next three months, so don’t bother packing the swimsuit.
Bookings can also be hard to come by as, again, the Texans are everywhere. A pro tip is, if your schedule is flexible, Sunday nights tend to be the most available.
As the crow flies, Mount Magazine is roughly 70 miles from central Arkansas. But roads aren’t birds and driving is more like 100 to 110 miles, or a little more than two hours of windshield time.
There’s several routes as well. You can take I-40 to Pottsville and enjoy the Dardanelle cutoff. Once you get to Yell County, you can take Arkansas Hwy. 22, also known as the True Grit Highway, to Paris and then on to Hwy. 309 South. Or you can turn left in Dardanelle and get on Hwy. 10 and it will also lead to Hwy. 309 North.
You could also take Hwy. 10 out of Little Rock, if, say, you were gassing up at Costco before departing.
In any case, Google Maps is your friend.
Yes. Mount Magazine is a beautiful place and a park worth seeing. It can be done as a day trip if one doesn’t want to shell out the money for a cabin or a room in the lodge. Also worth noting there’s plenty of spots for tent camping.
Luckily, as a person, who has done all three, each variation was worth it and I would be more than happy to do again.